Economic Aspects of the Peasant-Led National Palestinian Revolt, 1936-39

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Author: Amos Nadan 1
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  • 1 Tel Aviv University

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This paper examines economic aspects of the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, which was, beyond doubt, a national Palestinian revolt. It is suggested that, while the rebels, most of whom were peasants, acted collectively for national causes, many of them also perceived personal economic and rural collective interests in participating and acted to pursue economic and national goals simultaneously. This analysis helps explain why peasants comprised the main rebel force, why many of them were “landless” and from the poorest stratum of Palestinian rural society, why militias tended to be small, why banditry became dominant in 1938, and how economic motivations fueled an internal Arab-Palestinian civil war.

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  • 1

    Government of Palestine, A Survey of Palestine: Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (Jerusalem: The Government Printer, 1946): 147-52.

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  • 11

    A. W. S. Kayyali, Palestine: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm, 1978): 143.

  • 12

    Quoted in R. Sayigh, Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries (London: Zed Books, 1979): 53.

  • 16

    J. Norris, “Repression and Rebellion: Britain’s Response to the Arab Revolt in Palestine of 1936-39.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36/2 (2008): 25-45.

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  • 20

    T. Swedenburg, Memories of Revolt: The 1936-1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).

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  • 23

    M. I. Lichbach, “What Makes Rational Peasants Revolutionary? Dilemma, Paradox, and Irony in Peasant Collective Action.” World Politics 46/3 (1994): 384.

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  • 25

    J. C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976); S. L. Popkin, The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).

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  • 26

    See E. R. Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), chap. 4.

  • 30

    H. Gerber, The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1987): 133-6.

  • 38

    Translation of G. Kanafānī, “Thawra 1936-39 fī Filasṭīn.” Shuʾūn Filasṭīnīya 6 (1972): 51.

  • 40

    M. Humphreys and J. M. Weinstein, “Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War.” American Journal of Political Science 52/2 (2008): 436-55.

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  • 41

    J. C. Davies, When Men Revolt and Why: A Reader in Political Violence and Revolution (New York: Transaction, 1971).

  • 43

    Great Britain, Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August, 1929 (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930); Great Britain, Colonial Office, Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development, by Sir John Hope Simpson (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930); Government of Palestine, Palestine Development Department, Agricultural Development and Land Settlement in Palestine (First and Supplementary Reports), by Lewis French, Director of Development (Jerusalem: The Government Printer, 1931).

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  • 56

    Y. Porath, Me-hamehomut la-merida: Ha-tnuʾa ha-ʿaravit ha-palestinit, 1929-1939 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1978): 122-8.

  • 68

    Government of Palestine, Report of a Committee on the Economic Condition of Agriculturists in Palestine and the Fiscal Measures of Government in Relation Thereto, W. J. Johnson, R.E.H. Crosbie et al. (Jerusalem: The Government Printer, 1930).

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  • 69

    Y. Arnon-Ohana, Mered ‘aravi be-erez yisrael 1936-1939 (Jerusalem: Ariel Press, 2013): 112.

  • 71

    K. W. Stein, “The Intifada and the 1936-1939 Uprising: A Comparison.” Journal of Palestine Studies 76 (1990): 65-85. Arnon-Ohana, Falaḥim ba-mered: 37, 47, 50. Arnon-Ohana, “The Intifada and the 1936-1939 Uprising: A Comparison.”: 25-34. xxviii.

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  • 92

    Barclays/11/317, 16 December 1936, “Agricultural Loans in Palestine,” a letter from the local director in Palestine to the general managers in London.

  • 101

    In 1936, the daily wage for an ordinary agricultural worker in the Arab sector was 110 mills (£P0.11) per day. A salary of £P2 was thus significant, as it was equivalent to the wage of more than eighteen full working days. For wages, see Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Palestine (Jerusalem: The Government Printer, various years) and Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, General Monthly Bulletin of Current Statistics (Jerusalem: The Government Printer, various dates): March 1944: 117; April 1946: 133; July 1946: 353; Dec. 1946: 712; January 1947: 48. Government of Palestine, A Survey of Palestine: 741.

  • 133

    Tom Bowden, “The Politics of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936-39.” Middle Eastern Studies 11/2 (1975): 147; Arnon-Ohana, Falaḥim ba-mered: 114-40, 148.

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